Date registered: Nov 2002
Vehicle: 1980 LWB 280GE
Location: Bailey, CO, USA
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Uh....ALL of them.... :^)
Mostly I decided what I wanted first in the way of features.
1- ability to store bedding (winter sleeping bags) inside the folded tent.
2- a solid roof that could shed snow and rain so I didn't have to fold wet canvas in on my bedding
3- something durable enough to be handed down to my kids along with the G in 30 years.[:D]
Then I started talking to people who'd used these things on extended expeditions in Africa and South America.
The Voegle one really "looks the part" on the G, but was just too expensive to get here after shipping and all, looking at 4-5 grand.
I also shied away from the clamshell designs that hinge at one edge because most of them don't leave much room inside at all for bedding. A couple I talked to that used one on an extended trip in Canada ended up with a wet mattress when their sleeping bags kept the top pushed up enough that the sides weren't sealed even though the latch was closed.
So I was down to looking at the type that pop straight up, with solid roof and base, and cloth sides. I talked with a friend who used one of the Maggiolina's in Africa for a month solid. He thought it was okay, but said the fiberglass smell inside drove him nuts after a while. I laso didn't like the white fiberglass box making it look like I was driving around with a Winnebago on my roof. BUT, I didn't find anything better so my plan was to buy the Maggiolina, have it painted silver by a boat shop, and also look into tearing it apart to seal the fiberglass from the inside. Basically, taking the best I could find, and adapting it to fit my needs. I'm used to it.
But then a saint appeared to me in a vision.....Well actually, it was Michel from Johannesburg in E-mail. He told me that he had friends that used the Mag I was looking at, and he thought that while it was okay, it probably wouldn't be built to my standards, or what he'd come to know of them from watching my posts here. He started sending me pictures of various tent designs, commercial and one-off custom, that friends of his used on their expeditions in Africa. I discussed my needs with him and he thought the Top Tent would suit me well. After looking over the pictures he sent, I had to agree.
Michel's friend Barry builds these things on a per-order basis, and at the time I made my decision in July, Barry was off on safari in Ethiopia USING one of his own tents and wouldn't be back for 5 or 6 weeks. But eventually he got home and started building. Michel oversaw the whole thing for me and really put my mind at ease. He made it easy for me to buy this thing sight unseen and not be nervous the whole time whether I'd like what I was getting or not. I had total confidence in his ability to serve as my "man on the ground" in SA while it was built.
I have to say, I'm totally thrilled. This one will kick butt for my needs. I don't think I mentioned it, but the matteress size is just at 5' x 7', enough for two people.
If you need more room, and camp mainly in good weather (no worries about closing up wet), give the Hannibal roof tents a good look. They're a nice design, also bred in Africa, but they have distributors here (like pangeaexpeditions.com) so you don't have to import like I did.
One other thing to watch out for that I hated about the Maggiolina design and was going to have to rectify on my own, is that it isn't self-folding, so you have to go around tucking in canvas as you close it. Highly impractical when it's 7' in the air on my G's roof. The Top Tent is totally self folding with no tucking. The Hannibals self fold as well after you hook up some internal bungies on your way out the door. One thing I was surprised at with the Top Tent is how rigid it is when it's up. I expected it to sway a bit, but it's totally rigid when it's up. I don't know how they do it, but it's great.
With the TopTent, the more I look it over, the more little things I discover that are really just done RIGHT. A lot like the G in that respect. Sure beats the hell out of the opposite experience, which I'm more used to from Land Rover days, of continually finding things done sort of quirky and weird that need to be re-engineered.
Probably more than you wanted to know, but that's the condensed version, really.